Madison County, Ill., to voters: Want to reduce your property taxes?

Madison County, Ill., to voters: Want to reduce your property taxes?

A referendum allowing Madison County taxpayers to decide if they want to limit their tax burden is a choice all Illinoisans should have.

Madison County, Ill., is poised to ask county taxpayers if they want to reduce their property taxes.

The county’s November ballot will feature a referendum allowing voters to decide if they want to reduce a certain maximum tax levy by 20 percent. If this passes, it will reduce the tax levy from 25 cents to 20 cents per $100 assessed valuation of property. The referendum was challenged twice, and the county electoral board recently ruled it could move forward as a ballot initiative, signaling a big win for Madison County residents.

The option to vote on reducing their tax burden is an opportunity Madison County taxpayers, and all Illinois taxpayers, desperately need in order to stop the out of control increases in property taxes occurring across the state. Illinois taxpayers suffer under the burden of some of the highest property taxes in the nation. What’s worse, taxpayers typically have no say in whether local government can raise taxes, as evidenced by Chicago’s recent, massive property tax hike. This is especially problematic considering that property taxes have grown significantly faster than the median household incomes, meaning property taxes are outpacing residents’ ability to pay for them.

All Illinois taxpayers need protections against future property-tax increases. House Bill 696 would have provided this type of protection by freezing property taxes across the state, and require non-home rule governments to seek approval from voters before they could increase tax rates. This bill passed the Illinois House of Representatives, but unfortunately died in the Senate.

Adopting a taxpayer bill of rights, or TABOR, such as the one found in Colorado’s Constitution, would be another protection for Illinois taxpayers. A TABOR creates a formula that determines how much in taxes a government can collect in a year, based on increases in population and inflation. Any unit of government wanting to raise taxes or create a new tax would be required to seek voter approval first via a ballot referendum.

The Madison County referendum is a small, but positive, step toward reducing the property tax burden on Madison County residents and will provide much-needed relief to the taxpayers’ pocketbooks. Politicians and local officials across the state need to take similar steps to reduce the tax burden on their own residents. And to make sure Illinoisans will have a say in their tax burden in the future, Illinois should adopt a TABOR to the state constitution.

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